Middle Indo-Aryan languages
|Northern and western India|
Middle Indo-Aryan languages (Middle Indic languages, sometimes conflated with the Prakrits) is a historical group of languages of the Indo-Aryan family. Middle Indo-Aryan languages are the descendants of the Old Indo-Aryan languages similar to Vedic Sanskrit and the predecessors of the Modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu), Odia, Bengali and Punjabi.
The Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA) stage in the evolution of Indo-Aryan languages is thought to have spanned more than a millennium between 600 BCE and 1000 CE, and is often divided into three major subdivisions.
- The early stage is represented by the Edicts of Ashoka (c. 250 BC) and by Pali (used by Theravada Buddhists) and Ardha Magadhi (used in Jainism).
- The middle stage is represented by the various literary Prakrits, especially the Shauraseni language and Maharashtri and Magadhi Prakrits. The term Prakrit is also often applied to Middle Indo-Aryan languages (prākṛta literally means "natural" as opposed to saṃskṛta, which literally means "constructed" or "refined"). Modern scholars such as Michael C. Shapiro follow this classification by including all Middle Indo-Aryan languages under the rubric of "Prakrits", while others emphasise the independent development of these languages, often separated from Sanskrit by social and geographic differences.
- The late stage is represented by the Apabhraṃśas of the 6th century and later that preceded early Modern Indo-Aryan languages (such as Braj Bhasha).
The Indo-Aryan languages are commonly assigned to three major groups - Old Indo-Aryan languages, Middle Indo-Aryan languages and Early Modern and Modern Indo-Aryan languages, a linguistic and not strictly chronological classification.
Some scholars believe that a number of morphophonological and lexical features betray the fact that Middle Indo-Aryan languages are not direct continuations of Old Indo-Aryan languages; rather they descend from dialects which, despite many similarities, were different from Vedic Sanskrit.
Early phase: 3rd century BCE
- Ashokan Prakrits (3rd century BCE; regional dialects)
- Gandhari (a Buddhist canonical language)
- Pali (a Buddhist canonical language)
- early Ardha Magadhi (language of the oldest Jain sutras)
Middle phase (200 BCE to 700 CE)
- Niya Prakrit
- Ardha Magadhi (later Jain canon)
- Dramatic Prakrits (Maurya period)
- Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit (later texts)
Late phase: Apabhramsa (700-1500)
- Abahatta (Maghadi Apabhramsa)
Phonology and morphology
MIA languages, though individually distinct, share features of phonology and morphology which characterize them as parallel descendants of Old Indo-Aryan. Various sound changes are typical of the MIA phonology:
- The vocalic liquids 'ṛ' and 'ḷ' are replaced by 'a', 'i' or 'u';
- the diphthongs 'ai' and 'au' are monophthongized to 'e' and 'o';
- long vowels before two or more consonants are shortened;
- the three sibilants of OIA are reduced to one, either 'ś' or 's';
- the often complex consonant clusters of OIA are reduced to more readily pronounceable forms, either by assimilation or by splitting;
- single intervocalic stops are progressively weakened;
- dentals are palatalized by a following '-y-';
- all final consonants except '-ṃ' are dropped unless they are retained in 'sandhi' junctions.
The most conspicuous features of the morphological system of these languages are: loss of the dual; thematicization of consonantal stems; merger of the f. 'i-/u-' and 'ī-/ū-' in one 'ī-/ū-' inflexion, elimination of the dative, whose functions are taken over by the genitive, simultaneous use of different case-endings in one paradigm; employment of 'mahyaṃ' and 'tubhyaṃ' as genitives and 'me' and 'te' as instrumentals; gradual disappearance of the middle voice; coexistence of historical and new verbal forms based on the present stem; and use of active endings for the passive. In the vocabulary, the MIA languages are mostly dependent on Old Indo-Aryan, with addition of a few so-called 'deśī' words of (often) uncertain origin.
A Middle Indo-Aryan innovation are the serial verb constructions that have evolved into complex predicates in modern north Indian languages such as Hindi. For example, भाग जा (bhāg jā) 'go run' means run away, पका ले (pakā le) 'take cook' means to cook for oneself, and पका दे (pakā de) 'give cook' means to cook for someone. The second verb restricts the meaning of the main verb or adds a shade of meaning to it. Subsequently the second verb was grammaticalised further into what is known as a light verb, mainly used to convey lexical aspect distinctions for the main verb.
Pali is the best attested of the Middle Indo-Aryan languages because of the extensive writings of early Buddhists. These include canonical texts, canonical developments such as Abhidhamma, and a thriving commentarial tradition associated with figures such as Buddhaghosa. Early Pāli texts, such as the Sutta-nipāta contain many "Magadhisms" (such as heke for eke; or masculine nominative singular in -e). Pāli continued to be a living second language until well into the second millennium. The Pali Text Society was founded in 1881 by T. W. Rhys Davids to preserve, edit, and publish texts in Pāli, as well as English translations.
Many texts in Kharoṣṭhi script have been discovered in the area centred on the Khyber Pass in what was known in ancient times as Gandhara and the language of the texts came to be called Gāndhārī. These are largely Buddhist texts which parallel the Pāli Canon, but include Mahāyāna texts as well. The language is distinct from other MI dialects.
An apabhramsa (also: avahatta) was a language developed from Prakrits. Modern Provincial languages developed from different apabhramsas. Patanjali was the first to use apabhramsa in his Mahabhasya (200 BC). The term is derived from the Sanskrit word Apabhrasta, means a corrupted form of Sanskrit. Mostly Jain religious language and spiritual literature of Siddhas was composed in Apabhramsa language.
When the Romani people migrated from Rajasthan, Punjab, Sindh and Afghanistan in the 1st century AD, they were speaking an apabhramsa language pertaining to the Western part of India. They spread in Western countries around the 12th century AD.
Literary work in apabhramsa appeared in 8th century AD. Poets of apabhramsa are as follows:
- Svayambhu - his poem is Pauma Cariu
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Middle Indo-Aryan". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Shapiro, Michael C. Hindi. Facts about the world's languages: An encyclopedia of the world's major languages, past and present. Ed. Jane Garry, and Carl Rubino: New England Publishing Associates, 2001.
- Oberlies, Thomas, Aśokan Prakrit and Pali. The Indo-Aryan LanguagesEd. George Cardona, Dhanesh Jain: Routledge Language Family Series, 2003.
- Shapiro, Hindi.
- "The most archaic Old Indo-Aryan is found in Hindu sacred texts called the Vedas, which date to approximately 1500 BCE". Encyclopedia Britannica - Indo-Aryan languages. General characteristics.
- "If in "Sanskrit" we include the Vedic language and all dialects of the Old Indian period, then it is true to say that all the Prakrits are derived from Sanskrit. If on the other hand " Sanskrit " is used more strictly of the Panini-Patanjali language or "Classical Sanskrit," then it is untrue to say that any Prakrit is derived from Sanskrit, except that S'auraseni, the Midland Prakrit, is derived from the Old Indian dialect". Introduction to Prakrit, by Alfred C Woolner. Baptist Mission Press 1917
- Oberlies, Thomas Pali: A Grammar of the Language of the Theravāda Tipiṭaka, Walter de Gruyter, 2001.
- Oberlies, Thomas, Aśokan Prakrit and Pali. The Indo-Aryan Languages Ed. George Cardona, Dhanesh Jain: Routledge Language Family Series, 2003.
- South Asian folklore: an encyclopedia : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, By Peter J. Claus, Sarah Diamond, Margaret Ann Mills, Routledge, 2003, p. 203
- BPT Vagish Shastri, Bundelkhand Ki Prachinta, Vidvad Gosthi, 1965, Varanasi, India.
- Devendra Kumar Jain, Apabhramsa Bhasa aur Sahitya, Bhartiya Jnanapitha Prakashan, 1966, Calcutta, India.
- P.D.Gune, An Introduction to Comparative Philology, Poona Oriental BookHouse, 1959, Poona, India.
- R.A.Pandey and R.N. Mishra, Pali Prakrat-Apabhramsa Sangraha, Vishwavidyalaya Prakashan, 1968, Varanasi, India
- Vagish Shastri, Gypsy language and grammar, Vol XXI, Yogic Voice Consciousness Institute, 2004, Varanasi, India
- Gāndhārī Language entry in the Encyclopædia Iranica